Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Questions (66)

Seán Haughey


66. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding Poland, including EU efforts, to ensure that European values and freedoms are adhered to such as freedom of press and the Judiciary; if the proposed law to criminalise sex education in Poland was raised at the most recent EU Foreign Affairs Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47989/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Ireland and its EU partners closely follow legislative developments in EU Member States that could impact negatively on fundamental EU principles, including those relating to the operation of the rule of law, as well as freedom of expression.

In relation to Poland, the European Commission activated its rule of law mechanism in January 2016 and formally triggered the Article 7 procedure on 20 December 2017. There have been five hearings at General Affairs Council meetings since then, in which Ireland has actively participated, highlighting the importance we attach to respect for the rule of law.

Some Polish government legislation has given rise to concerns around fundamental principles of the operation of the rule of law, including legal certainty, separation of powers, shielding of the judiciary from undue influence from other State powers, and security of judicial tenure. 

The cumulative effect of the reforms of the Supreme Court and Judicial Council on the system of justice has been of concern. European institutions, other Member States and the international judicial community should be able to place their trust in the system of justice in all Member States. 

We welcome the legislative steps taken by the Polish Government to address the concerns on rule of law issues raised by the European Commission and also by Member States at the General Affairs Council. We encourage Poland to continue to engage and address the concerns that have been raised.

Regarding the proposed law on sex education in Poland, this was not raised at the most recent EU Foreign Affairs Council.

The proposed law was debated in the last sitting of the outgoing Polish Parliament. We note the resolution passed by the European Parliament on this proposed law which calls on the Polish Parliament to refrain from its adoption. 

Ireland is committed to advancing gender equality at the UN and other regional organisations, and in this regard supports the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and of the International Conference on Population and Development. The Beijing Platform for Action states that “the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. Central to this right is the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education and health-care services.

We will continue to monitor developments on this issue and on rule of law issues across the EU.